I just finished an amazing book that was quite a roller coaster adventure and emotional journey. I wanted so badly to promote this wonderful couple that I rushed to finish this remarkable story last night and it turned out to be quite emotional for me in a number of really cool and inspirational ways I didn’t expect.
First, the story itself, beautifully expressed in their book Redefining Normal, is quite inspirational in a number of unique and poignant ways. Their personal description of their journey through the foster care system illustrates the ups and downs of children trying to find their identity and self-worth in a confusing and often difficult transition. However, Justin and Alexis comment several times that it was the foster care system that saved them from a life of bad outcomes that was scripted for them from their childhood experiences.
Learning new ways to rediscover their identity and purpose in the world gives meaning to this new life together as they strive to give back to those involved in foster care. Paying it forward, they offer tips and inspiration to anyone trying to get through difficult situations.
There are so many great parts of their journey that make their story powerful. Foremost, it is authentic and places the reader right in the middle of everything they were experiencing in their separate but similar unhealthy environments. I am certainly not a book critic but I think there is so much good stuff to take away from this book that I highly recommend you buy it for yourself and anyone else you believe could benefit from a tough but beautiful adventure.
I mentioned to Alexis and Justin this week that the chapter discussing INTENTIONALITY was a passage that really hit home with me. They share in this chapter that, statistically, they shouldn’t be where they are today. With God’s grace and love, they’ve been able to use their circumstances to help others and share their story. People often look at them and what they have been able to accomplish, and can’t imagine - or would never guess - what they have been through along the way.
They go on to say that to accomplish their purposeful life together, they had to define what their values are, how they want others to see them, and what they want to leave behind in this world. They quote personal growth consultant Richie Norton, “Intentional living means making choices for your life based on your greatest values, not the habit of others.” Justin and Alexis concluded, “we are not the product of our parent’s choices---we are instead defined by our own decisions.” I concur wholeheartedly and wish them all the luck in the world in their future endeavors.
Now for a big shout-out and virtual hugs to two of my favorite angels I have been fortunate to get to know on my 3rd Act journey. Thank you Lynda McGhee, Co-Executive Director of Michigan Children’s Law Center (MCLC) and Rev. Kate Thoresen, Parish Associate at First Presbyterian in Birmingham and state coordinator of Faith Communities Coalition (FCC) on Foster Care, for your kindness and thoughtfulness in introducing me to Justin and Alexis and many other devoted folks trying to give our kids a better life. You are the best.
In order to give you a flavor of this wonderful book and to meet Justin and Alexis, I asked Rev. Kate for permission to republish the commentary and link from a recent FCC newsletter that has an informative interview with Rev. John Judson, Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian in Birmingham. It provides a good picture of this amazing couple and their purpose-driven life.
All the best, Roger N. Steed
Dear Friends of Our Kids in Care,
Ta-Da---Justin and Alexis Black have been recognized by Forbes as one of the 1000 Outstanding Young Entrepreneurs in the United States! The notifications stated, “This first of its kind initiative celebrates bold and inspiring entrepreneurs… who are redefining what it means to run a business today. We received thousands of nominations and your accomplishments have been recognized by our editors plus a panel of top business minds and entrepreneurial superstars.” Some of you have met Justin Black through our Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care network. When he was in high school, he often came to our events as well as spoke at some of them. Then he became a Seita Scholar at Western Michigan University and accomplished amazing things. He and Alexis Lenderman met there, fell in love, and wrote the book, Re-defining Normal: How Two Kids from Foster Care Beat the Odds and Found Healing, Happiness and Love. Together they gave powerful presentations last year throughout our FCC network. Already they sold over 6000 copies and received 7 book awards. Pastor John Judson and his wife, Dr. Cindy Judson of First Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, drove over to Kalamazoo this summer and created this YouTube interview with Justin and Alexis. Here is their compelling account: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87kq-Wcga7c Congratulations, Alexis and Justin. You, your stories, and your dedication to serve others encourage us to continue to go forward to help raise awareness and invite involvement on behalf of so many of our young people experiencing foster care. Blessings, Kate
We need your help!
The vision behind Redefining Normal is to assist individuals, institutions, and communities to change the way they build relationships, understand their impact, and create a prosperous culture.
The publishing of our book required us to wear our hearts on our sleeves and open up about our past traumas. However, the biggest payoff was seeing the ripple effect of the positive impact it created in youths’ lives.
We created an audiobook that required even more vulnerability by bringing our traumas to life through our words. The audiobook will:
Encourage more youth to heal and go through the redefining process - in crucial areas of their lives
Engage audiences that are not interested in reading but would benefit from hearing the words of our book
Help those curious about healing, understanding concepts of happiness, and learning more about identity
Reach a greater audience of advocates and supporters of the foster care system and those who’ve experienced trauma
We recognize that our responsibility to serve should not be neglected by a lack of support - this is a lesson we learned on our healing and growth journey.
The money you offer in support of the Redefining Normal mission will be matched.
As a small thank you, we will provide a 20% discount on our merchandise to all those who support us on GofundMe - please reply to this email once you have done so!
Thank you for all your support in helping individuals with their mental stability, growth, and personal healing. This investment is beyond us, but it is a commitment to stop the cycle of trauma and abuse for the next generation.
Support Redefining Normal’s mission below.